A very interesting article by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy about the impact of television on Bhutanese culture and society, published in The Guardian on 14 June 2003.
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Fast forward into trouble
Four years ago, Bhutan, the fabled Himalayan Shangri-la, became the last nation on earth to introduce television. Suddenly a culture, barely changed in centuries, was bombarded by 46 cable channels. And all too soon came Bhutan’s first crime wave – murder, fraud, drug offences. Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy report from a country crash-landing in the 21st century The Guardian, Saturday 14 June 2003
April 2002 was a turbulent [read more...]
Bhutan and Nepal : The Himalayan Kingdoms in the Perils of Democracy -A Regional Stake between India and China- by Thierry Mathou, Research fellow to the CNRS
At a time when China and India have embarked on a ‘strategic partnership’, the stability of the Himalayan states, faced with an unprecedented social and political transformation, is a cause for concern. Bhutan and Nepal, the last kingdoms of the region, are the sole state survivors of an old regional order that has seen the incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China and that of Sikkim into the Indian Union in the course of the 20th century. These two comparable but nevertheless different monarchies, kept out of [read more...]
Council on Foreign Relations Interview with Jigme Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan
In March 2008, Bhutan held its first parliamentary elections (BBC), shifting away from a century-old absolute monarchy. The largely Buddhist country of around 700,000 people is nestled in the Himalayas between Asia’s giants, India and China. The head of country’s first democratically elected government, Prime Minister Jigme Y. Thinley, tells CFR.org in an interview that the Bhutanese people were apprehensive about democracy because of the poor state of democracy in South Asia. He says he is confident, however, that democracy will work in Bhutan. Thinley also discusses Bhutan’s relations with its neighbors, China and India. He says relations with India have shown continued growth [read more...]
Article by Patrick French, published 13 April, 2009, Vanity Fair
For more than three decades, the fourth Dragon King of Bhutan steered his people into the modern world, while keeping their traditional culture intact. His recent abdication, at 53, in favor of his 29-year-old, Oxford-educated son, was another stroke of Realpolitik, strengthening the throne even as he moved the country to a parliamentary democracy. In a rare privilege for an outsider, the author joins the royal family at the coronation of Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the new ruler of the world’s last Himalayan kingdom.
On a bitterly cold day last winter, high in the eastern Himalayas, the king of Bhutan voluntarily gave up his throne. Watched [read more...]
Article published 10 November, 1952, TIME
Stretching for some 190 miles along the southern slopes of the Himalayas, north of India and south of Tibet, lies the most remote kingdom in the world. The upland valleys of tiny (18,000 sq. mi.) Bhutan are as green and inviting as those of Shangri-La, and the passes that lead into them just as forbidding. Icy winds howl along the snowswept plains behind the mountain passes to discourage the traveler. Rugged barriers of snow and ice rise as high as 24,000 ft. Dense semitropical growth clogs the lower valleys. Fever haunts the forests, making them uninhabitable to all except endlessly prowling tigers and rhinos.
Article published 17 June, 1974, TIME
With its sparkling air, snow-capped mountains and countless whitewashed Buddhist temples, the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan is probably the world’s closest real-life equivalent to James Hilton’s Shangri-La. The 1,100,000 Bhutanese, most of whom are illiterate peasants, sense that they live in a uniquely calm and contented country, which they call “the end of the rainbow land of desires.” Last week Bhutan gave itself another distinction by publicly crowning the world’s youngest monarch, 18-year-old King Jigme Singye Wangchuk. He will henceforth be known as “the dragon king.”
Royal astrologers in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, had delayed the ceremony until they were satisfied that all the signs were in order, [read more...]
Article published 14 May, 1956, TIME
Among the visitors who flew in to Katmandu for King Mahendra’s coronation last week (see above) were three sturdy men wearing swords, embroidered knee-length felt boots and striped wrap-around coats. They were from tiny (18,000 sq. mi.) Bhutan, a state perched in the Himalayas between India. Sikkim and Tibet. Although King Mahendra’s close neighbors, they had traveled eight days—on foot and by pony to India, and then by plane to Nepal.
In the 20th century only 20 foreigners (not including Tibetans and Nepalese) have visited the big, rambling mountain fort at Punakha that serves as Bhutan’s capital. So rugged are Bhutan’s passes and so formidable its mountains that the Indian [read more...]
Article by Somini Sengupta, published 23 April, 2007, The New York Times
THIMPHU, Bhutan — Can “Desperate Housewives,” free trade and multiparty elections deliver happiness?
The people of Bhutan, the tiny Buddhist nation once known as the hermit kingdom of the Himalayas, pondered these questions this weekend, as they undertook a sort of fire drill for democracy and set down an important marker on their carefully ordered journey toward modernity.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who recently announced his plan to abdicate, has ordered parliamentary elections for next year. In preparation for the real thing, more than 125,000 Bhutanese citizens participated Saturday in what the government called “mock elections,” lining up at polling booths across the country [read more...]
Article by Barbara Crossette, published 12 July, 1998, The New York Times
Bhutan, one of two remaining absolute monarchies in Asia, has taken a major step toward constitutional government with the election of a new Cabinet and a decision by the King to test his rule in periodic votes of confidence.
Although the King will still be head of government — there is no Prime Minister or President — the National Assembly now has the right to demand his abdication.
Bhutan is the last of a group of independent Buddhist kingdoms in the Himalayas, which once included Tibet, Ladakh and Sikkim. All the rest have been swallowed up over the last century by China and India.
Article by Sanjoy Hazarika, published 06 June, 1993, The New York Times
Tens of thousands of people of Nepalese origin have left this remote Himalayan kingdom, many of them accusing Bhutanese officials of driving them out.
Bhutan says many of the migrants were illegal settlers who were identified in a census a few years ago. The migrants now live in crowded refugee camps in Nepal and with friends and relatives in neighboring India.
Article by Barbara Crossette, published 23 March, 1991, The New York Times
“The flaw in monarchy,” the King of Bhutan said, “is that you reach that very high and important position not due to merit, but due to birth. Too much depends on one individual.”
His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Druk Gyalpo, or Precious Ruler of the Dragon People, and the last of the Himalayan Buddhist kings, has been thinking a lot about monarchy and its role in a world swept by democracy movements. On the shoulders of this 35-year-old basketball-playing ruler rests the responsibility of modernizing Bhutan, an exotic land sealed off from the the rest of the world for most of [read more...]
Article by Barbara Crossette, published 07 October 1990, The New York Times
The small Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan has become the target of a well-organized campaign, based in India, to stir up violent opposition to the country’s moves to protect itself and its culture from illegal immigration.
Waged largely on behalf of Nepali and Indian citizens denied the right to settle in the small kingdom, where standards of living are relatively high and business opportunities plentiful, the militant campaign has been appealing to international human-rights groups to recognize it as a ”pro democracy” movement.
Article by Barbara Crossette, published 14 April, 1991, The New York Times
The last of the once-isolated Himalayan Buddhist kingdoms is fighting for survival, victim of a South Asian population explosion that is changing demography on the roof of the world.
Over the last six months, a campaign of violence and terror by small bands of ethnic Nepalese guerrillas in southern Bhutan, most of them Hindus based in India, has shattered the peace of this small mountainous nation.